We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day “body positivity” edition

“I’m not entirely sure what loving one’s body might mean, beyond the obvious off-colour jokes. But apparently, it’s something that one is supposed to proclaim as an accomplishment, a credential of progressivism. I have, however, noted that it tends to be announced by people whose declared triumph in this matter is not altogether convincing, and whose basis for doing so is generally much slimmer than they are.”

David Thompson. As a take-down of nonsense, this article is brutal.

Samizdata quote of the day – Andrew Jackson’s political legacy edition

“After Butler, America has suddenly become a more Jacksonian nation. The shadow of Old Hickory looms larger than ever, and Donald Trump stands taller as his undisputed heir.”

Walter Russell Mead, WSJ ($)

For those unfamiliar with the extraordinary politician and general, Andrew Jackson, check out this link for some biographies and studies.

It’s how people react to attacks that defines them

Some people are just too “clever by half” or lack a basic level of human empathy, despite playing the moral outrage card. I saw this comment on my Facebook page. To spare the guy (who is in the US) embarrassment, and as his comments were not meant to be fully public, I will not name him, and I suspect he’s not alone in taking this sort of line:

“I’m sick and tired of everybody valorizing Donald Trump in the wake of the assassination attempt yesterday. Somebody tried to kill him and he got an injury to his face. How does that make him more virtuous? How does that make him somehow more qualified to be president? How does that make Biden LESS qualified to be president? Is it even possible to make either of them less qualified to be president? The fact that you endured an assassination attempt simply means you are the passive recipient of somebody else’s misconduct. It does not make you more virtuous or more heroic.”

The penultimate sentence contains the seeds of this writer’s error (such as his words “passive recipient”), and a key point is that, in the writer’s way of thinking, Trump/other shooter victim should only be viewed as a victim. But the writer missed the point, and here is what I wrote in response:

“It’s how a person reacts to an attack that counts. In fact, it’s about when people refuse to play the `victim card’ and behave in a particular way that’s important. It comes down to how composed and calm a person can be in times of stress. In all walks of life, we admire people who display those traits…And I think Mr Trump handled himself well after being shot and realizing that a shooter was trying to kill him. If you can’t give a person credit for that, then that’s odd.”

I would go beyond what I said to this person on FB by making a broader point. Today, we live in an age when it is often widely held among supposed intellectuals, scientists and the like that we don’t have free will, and that we are, in varying ways, the consequences of internal and external forces we cannot understand or control. As a result, it is – as the writer I responded to claims – no cause for praise in how anyone reacts to said forces.

To have free will is, according to this point of view, an illusion, albeit perhaps a necessary one for mental health and maybe also an aspect of biological evolution. (The latter has the risk of being a “just-so” story explanation.) But if free will is nothing more than a handy, surface appearance, then it is hard to see how it has much value, much cash value, from evolutionary terms. After all, knowing you are not the author of your actions might, for some people, be comforting, rather than a nightmare. And think of how certain well-known writers, such as Sam Harris, argue that free will is an illusion and that, for example, criminals are ill, primarily, rather than wicked. The flipside of this is that a person who shows courage, either physical or mental, gets no praise because, on the determinist view, he had no choice in the matter. Everything, including the words I type right now, I had no choice over. None. We are all in the Matrix.

But this is self-contradictory. If determinism is true and judgement is pre-determined, how can we know the truth of determinism if we had no choice but to do so anyway? I think we know from introspection that the sense that we are making a choice to focus our minds or not, to set the course of how we want to think about something (or not), is real as anything is in the universe from an empirical sense. To think is to choose; thinking and volition are intertwined so much as to be one and the same. If introspection is an illusion, then so is sight, smell, taste, hearing, etc. But oddly, determinists rarely in my experience challenge these senses’ validity in conveying reality.

Back to Mr Trump’s way of reacting to the would-be assassin and others like him: I think that Mr Trump, whatever else one can say about him, had the kind of character, a character that for better or worse he has developed, to want to assert himself in the face of danger. That’s not always smart or fashionable in these weird times, but it is there. There is a sort of Andrew Jackson-style baddass mind-set that came to the fore on Saturday.

(Here are some excellent places to look if you want to understand, as I do, why I think free will is real. See this book, by Christian List, for example, or this or this one by Alfred Mele. And finally this, by Lee Pierson and Monroe Trout, for those who want to burrow deep into the evolutionary argument.)

Addendum: The writer is also denouncing the idea that Mr Trump being shot is somehow proof of his virtue. However, I doubt anyone thinks that. Of course, Mr Trump does threaten the agendas of a lot of people, foreign and domestic, but that is not the nub of my point here, although I am sure commenters will want to mention these issues.

The Uncertainty Principle in violence blame mechanics: further experimental confirmation

I wake up, I check the morning news.

Oh.

Six days ago, on July 8th, President Biden said, “it’s time to put Trump in a bullseye”.

In January 2011, a man called Jared Loughner tried to murder Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and did murder six others. The media rushed to blame his crime on a map put out by Sarah Palin’s campaign showing a map of the US with states that she regarded as political targets marked by crosshairs, with the names of those states’ Democratic representatives whom she hoped to unseat listed below. Loughner was a paranoid schizophrenic who held a longstanding – and bizarre – grudge against Giffords. There is no evidence he ever saw Palin’s map.

Perhaps it is time to dust off this old post:

The uncertainty principle in violence blame mechanics

Sometimes one is privileged to witness the discovery of a law of science.

Δl Δm > M

The variables l, m and M are defined in the link.

The Guardian’s modified limited hangout on its failure to cover Biden’s mental decline

“Ladies and gentlemen, President Putin!” Apart from introducing the president of Ukraine as the president of Russia and referring to Kamala Harris as “vice-president Trump”, Joe Biden got through the NATO summit just fine.

The Democrats have got themselves into a bit of a pickle, haven’t they? It is not as if there were no warning signs. Why, the Guardian’s Washington Correspondent, David Smith, compiled a long list of them called “Warning signs: a history of Joe Biden’s verbal slips” only a week ago.

Only a week ago. That is the problem. The first item on the list of warning signs dates from March 2021. The Guardian‘s article attempts to explain why it took so long:

Biden’s team came down hard on reporters who questioned whether the oldest president in American history – now 81 – was still fully capable of doing the job. Journalists also wanted to avoid the accusation of ageism or that they were helping to elect Trump.

“It is simply astounding for the entire country, including its most seasoned reporters, to be as shocked as everyone was by the ugly and painful reality of Biden’s debate performance,” Jill Abramson, former executive editor of the New York Times, wrote on the Semafor website this week.

While it was a “super hard story to report”, she said it could have been done. Instead, Abramson said, the American press failed in its duty to hold those in power accountable. Here are some of the dots that, with the benefit of hindsight, could have been joined sooner:

Or you could have read a proper newspaper like the New York Post or the Daily Mail and learned about them at the time. The Guardian‘s selection of “gaffes” is skewed towards things that, although they happen to Biden more frequently than average, could happen to anyone, such as Biden’s literal stumbles and his accidental substitutions of one word for another. The only really damaging items in the list compiled by David Smith are Biden calling out “Jackie, are you here?” to the recently deceased Jackie Walorski, and one of several claims he has made that his son died in Iraq. None of the charming anecdotes that he habitually makes up out of whole cloth were included. The New York Post was flagging this habit of his back in 2021. Nor does the Guardian‘s list include any of Biden’s frequent descents into meaningless gabble. Remember how he came out with “I’ll lead an effective strategy to mobilise trunalimunumaprzure” at a campaign stop in Luzerne County, PA, back in October 2020? Of course you do, because you read a proper newspaper, such as Canada’s National Telegraph, from where I got the link. The article by Gerry Kaur, includes a line saying that we need to talk about the “massive problem” of Joe Biden’s “lowering cognitive agility”. It was published on November 3rd, 2020. The Democrats, their friends in the media, and the left in general could have started that conversation four years ago and been in a much better position now, but they preferred to suppress the story. The trouble with hiding the truth from other people is that you end up hiding it from yourself as well.

Samizdata quote of the day – unserious or unstable people are thick in the natsec arena in election years

In the end, what I would offer to anyone on either side of the Atlantic who thinks a new Trump administration would yeet the USA out of NATO on a whim is this; get out more. Actually talk to people on the natsec right. Get out of your intellectually onanistic terrariums. And for the sake of your larger credibility and sanity – do not think the America you read about in the NYT/WaPo and their derivatives, especially in an election year, is a reflection of the full reality.

Read broadly. Seek out a contrary opinion. Have reasonable discussions of substance. Don’t assume anyone who disagrees with you on policy is evil and the absolute worst version of their enemies’ caricature.

In the end, we all want the same thing, don’t we? Keep America in, the Russia out, and France & Germany down.

CDR Salamander

These five 1984 predictions came true

From Big Brother Watch:

Samizdata quote of the day – Reform, not the Tories, is starting to inherit the Brexit realignment

Ever since their defeat, many Tories have been on the airwaves smothering themselves with comfort blankets. They’ve been saying Farage and Reform are merely a ‘protest vote’. Are ‘far right’. Are ‘not Conservative’. But actually the evidence does not support this at all. Reform, we already know, rallied an electorate that is socially distinctive —is mainly older, leans toward the working-class and non-graduates, and tends to be outside the cities and university towns. This makes it ‘sticky’, more likely it will stick to Reform in the years ahead. And in his post-election poll, Lord Ashcroft finds that most of the people who voted for Reform did so because they ‘preferred the promises made by the party I voted for more than the promises of other parties’, and ‘I trusted the motives of the party I voted for more than those of other parties’. This does not sound like protest to me. It sounds like a very instrumental vote rooted in sincere and coherent concerns about the country. Furthermore, the top issue for these voters is immigration and asylum, once again underlining their coherent worldview.

Matt Goodwin

Samizdata quote of the day – a terrible US political establishment edition

A conclusion is hard to escape: America suffers from an incompetent leadership class. Its problem isn’t ruthlessness but softness, its inability to deal with the world without a media that constantly lies to make it feel better about itself.

Holman W Jenkins, Jnr.

What we are learning is that much of what Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds sometimes calls the “gentry class” is just not that good, competent, honest, or insightful. And more and more people have noticed.

Steve Baker’s parting shot

The count through the night after British elections makes great TV. What could be more juicy than thrusting a microphone into the face of someone who has just made their concession speech and asking them how they feel? ITV’s election coverage roped in a lot of ex-politicians who had been there themselves to carry out this task, including two former Chancellors of the Exchequer, one Labour and one Conservative, Ed Balls and George Osborne. The two former rivals seemed very pally. As is the custom, they interviewed both the winning and the losing candidates in various constituencies just after the results were announced when emotions are at their most raw.

So, in the early hours of Friday morning, Steve Baker was standing in Stoke Mandeville Stadium where the Wycombe count took place, having just lost his seat to Labour, being quizzed by a visibly gloating Ed Balls. Baker talked about three factors that got him into politics, all of which had been presided over by the government of which Balls was a part: Extraordinary Rendition, Labour bringing forward the Lisbon Treaty to avoid having a referendum on the Constitution for Europe, and “that your government rode an enormous credit boom within which the money supply tripled, leading into the global financial crisis”.

Chuckling, Ed Balls said, “Goodness me, Mr Baker, I have to say, y’know, it’s 2024. You’ve just lost your seat in your constituency. You’ve sort of thought of three different things which all happened over seventeen years ago. Are you maybe in denial?”

Freed of the obligations of being a minister, Baker’s response did not spare either the Labour or the Conservative Chancellor:

“You know as well as I do that these big treaty changes with the European Union, and indeed the monetary system post-Bretton Woods, is fifty years old – and it’s now breaking down. And I’m afraid you and George are as bad as each other on this particular score. Neither of you have ever really understood monetary economics and I’ve wasted a lot of breath in the House of Commons trying to explain to George in particular what was going on, and the kind of injustice it was manufacturing. Well, much good did it do everybody. And now, with the nation seething with a sense of injustice, economic injustice – of course they are; they can’t afford house prices if they are young! Why? Because cheap credit was pumped into a housing market in which supply was constrained by planning laws, about which neither of you did anything. So, you know, at last, as I say, I’m free, thank God.”

Commentators as varied as the financial journalist John Stepek, the IEA’s Reem Ibrahim, and the very left wing Aaron Bastani have reposted Baker’s reply. As Stepek said, “Sorry but @SteveBakerFRSA is mostly, perhaps entirely correct in his analysis here. And the smug reaction – ridicule, not to mention the extraordinary notion that 17 years ago is ancient history with no bearing on the current situation – exemplifies why voters are fed up”.

Samizdata quote of the day – It is Tony’s world now, and we all just get to live in it

Having “got Brexit done”, the Tories in theory had a one-off opportunity to change the frame. They could have used the time to pack Britain’s NGOcracy with their people, or even tackle the plethora of New Labour constitutional innovations that paved the way for the post-liberal order. But they didn’t take it, which suggests that either they had so poor a grasp of the political machine they supposedly operated as to make an inadvertent case for the technocratic “experts” they affected to deplore. Or else, perhaps, they understood how that technocracy worked, and liked it just fine.

The latter position is understandable, if not commendable. When you can leave the machinery of state largely on autopilot and focus instead on lining your own and your friends’ pockets, who in their right mind would want actual responsibility? There are honourable exceptions to this: Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates have both stuck their necks out, while for voicing mainstream British views on migration control and the inadequacy of multiculturalism, Suella Braverman was smeared as the reincarnation of Oswald Mosley.

But that’s three MPs, out of what was (until the Tories’ roundly deserved electoral hammering) several hundred. As for the others, their behaviour in Parliament suggested that whatever the electorate may have hoped, they mostly accepted it is Tony’s world now, and we all just get to live in it.

Mary Harrington

“Or else, perhaps, they understood how that technocracy worked, and liked it just fine” is of course the correct answer.

There is always hope!

No Parliament can repeal the laws of economics. Whilst, to quote Hirohito ‘We must endure the unendurable.‘, there is a real Prester John in the faraway land of Argentina, where a zero weekly inflation rate in food prices has been registered for the first time in 30 years, and a truly libertarian President is doing great things.

So let us adapt and cherry-pick the words of Winston Churchill:

…And even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, it will carry on, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old…‘.

But if that doesn’t come to pass, it will just be more of the same, faster, until what can’t carry on any longer, doesn’t.